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  *Long* administrivia (but please read it anyway!)
From: Steve Marak <samarak at arachne.uark.edu> on 1997.02.20 at 06:22:32(397)
This is regarding the Mallorn archive site, which was mentioned in a few
notes last week. This site is maintaining archives of a number of mailing
lists, mostly horticultural/botanical, including Aroid-L.

The topic died out (until tonight) on Aroid-L, but was very active
elsewhere on the net. I had hoped not to address the issue ex cathedra
(that's humor, folks) until those other discussions had gelled a bit, so
as to draw on their conclusions, but events are moving along and it seems
prudent to open the discussion.

Let me reassure everyone first that Chris Lindsey, who set up the
archives, is very much aware of the consternation they have inadvertantly
caused and is sensitive to the issues. At my request earlier today, he has
removed the Aroid-L archive from public access (i.e., outside his
organization) until such time as we give him permission to reinstate it.
His original reason for creating the archives was strictly internal - a
number of people in his organization were each individually subscribing to
various botanical and horticultural mailing lists. By subscribing from a
single account and creating an interface to the accumulated posts, he
could greatly reduce the load on his computing resources. (I have worked
on the same issue for my employer; it's very real.) Since Chris never
publicized his archives, he did not expect use from the net as a whole and
consequently did nothing explicit to prevent it (until requested, of

There are several issues here, which is why this note will be so long -
please bear with me as I feel compelled to explain what some may already
know and others may consider irrelevant as I try to put it all in

First off is the issue of copyrighted material. Several of us who have
researched it, and more importantly some lawyers who have also, agree that
in general each of you who posts to Aroid-L holds the copyrights on your
postings. That is, you - rather than Don and I as listowners - control how
they may be republished and otherwise used. There are all manner of
details, but that's the gist, and what it means to me is that even if Don
and I sanctioned the idea, each of you would still control how your posts
were used and whether they could be included in the archive. One possible
solution would be to state in the Aroid-L welcome which each member gets
upon joining that all posts might be archived and might be available to
persons not currently a part of the list (see discussion later).

Another issue, as Nancy mentioned, is privacy - some people are very
sensitive about the idea of their words going to any audience they didn't
intend. The consequences of this on the Internet can be remarkable -
several years ago I saw the very most inflammatory comment from one list I
was on (not mine, fortunately!) show up, very much out of context, in an
essay in Scientific American about 6 months later. A number of people
include phone numbers or mailing addresses in their signature files, which
now might be made much more public than they realized.

On the other hand (some of the "perspective" mentioned earlier) ...

- Many lists are automatically archived by the sponsoring institution as
part of their list processor operation. These archives can be retrieved
far into the future by people who were not part of the list at the time a
particular message was posted. Often you do not even need to join the list
to access the archives. Sometimes this is mentioned in the welcome
message, sometimes not. I'll bet the majority of lists you are on are
archived in this way. (Aroid-L is not. We get regular requests that it

- Anyone on any list (and most lists, including Aroid-L, are open to
anyone who wants to join) can keep personal copies of any or all posts,
and send them back out years later. (Poor taste, yes, copyright
infringement, maybe, but they can do it and no one can stop them.)

- I did a quick check this afternoon of some "directory assistance" type
resources on the Internet, and you all might be surprised at how many of
you (among my test set) I was able to locate without using any detailed
address information you might have provided in your signature files.
Sometimes I got the whole works - phone number, mailing address, and
e-mail address. This is not meant to minimize the issue of such
information being made available to a wider-than-intended audience, but to
make sure everyone realizes that much of it may already be available to
anyone who knows how to look. (You will all note that *my* signature is
pretty minimal, and always has been, even though I know any of you could
find my phone number and street address in 3 minutes flat with or without
the Internet. Ok, maybe 5 minutes.)

- We don't really know who our audience is when we post anyway. Most of us
are pretty open about our identities, in that we (appear to) use our real
names and so forth. But none of us would know if someone chose to do
otherwise - there is no way any listowner can prevent someone from joining
anonymously (i.e., under a false identity) if they really wish. I'm not
advocating distrust of people on the net, despite how I make my living - I
consider that I have good friends on the net I've never met in person -
just an awareness of the situation and some caution, the same as in most
other aspects of life.

To get to the point, finally: Don and I want to do what's best for the
list, meaning we want as many people to join as possible, and having
joined we want them to feel comfortable participating. I asked Don, who is
doing active listowner duties currently, to hold any messages on this
topic after Nancy's to give me time to get this massive work of literature
out to you so everyone would be fairly current on the issue. I expect that
some will feel a public archive is a good idea, as it would probably gain
us a wider audience and potentially more aroiders, while others will see
it as a widespread distribution of their posts they never intended. At the
moment I feel that we must err conservatively, i.e. if any significant
percentage of the list membership is opposed to a public archive we should
request Chris to keep the Aroid-L portion of this site permanently
off-limits outside his organization.

Don will post anything pending on this topic after this note has been
delivered; please let us know privately("aroid-owner@mobot.org" will reach
us both) or publicly as you see fit how you feel about the issue. I do
hope we can deal with this digression from aroids quickly (and more
succinctly than I have) and get back to our botanical addiction.


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